While the association between the Bard and Bankside’s Globe Theatre is well known (see our earlier post here for more), the Bard and his plays were also performed in various other theatres around London. Here we take a quick look at a couple in Shoreditch, then a more rural suburb of London known for its associations with the (somewhat seedy) entertainment industry…
• The Theatre, Shoreditch. Built in 1576 by James Burbage on property that had once been part of Holywell Priory, the Theatre was the home of a number of acting companies including The Lord Chamberlain’s Men of which Shakespeare was a member. The polygon-shaped theatre served as the home of the company between 1594 and 1598 when a dispute with a landlord over the lease led them to leave, temporarily settling at The Curtain Theatre, before rebuilding their theatre, now renamed The Globe, in Southwark. Between 2008 and 2010, archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) carried out an investigation beneath a disused warehouse in New Inn Broadway, near the intersection of Curtain Road and Great Eastern Street, and found the remains of a 14 sided theatre about 22 metres across. Plans have been mooted to build a new theatre on the site. To find out more about The Theatre and see a terrific animated recreation by Cloak & Dagger Studios and MOLA (pictured), head to www.explorethetheatre.co.uk. PICTURE: Courtesy of MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and Cloak and Dagger Studios.
• The Curtain Theatre, Shoreditch. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men only performed here temporarily, between 1598-1599, before relocating to Southwark. Henry V (the reference to “this wooden O” in the prologue of the play is taken to refer to this theatre) and Romeo and Juliet are believed to be among Shakespeare’s plays which premiered here. Located just a couple of hundred yards south of The Theatre and built the year after it, it also hosted Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour, a play in which Shakespeare is known to have performed. The polygonal theatre’s name comes from the road on which it stood – Curtain Road, which, it has been suggested, was named after the Holywell Priory’s ‘curtain wall’. It continued as a theatre until the 1620s and was later converted into tenements. The remains of what is believed to have been the Curtain Theatre were found by MOLA archaeologists in 2012 and further excavations are expected with the hope that one day the site will be open to the public with plays performed here. There is a plaque commemorating the site at 18 Hewett Street which is only a short distance from where the excavations were carried out. For more on the Curtain Theatre, check out www.shakespearesshoreditch.com.
For more on Elizabethan theatres, see Julian Bowsher’s Shakespeare’s London Theatreland: Archaeology, History and Drama.
Since we’re talking about all things Shakespearean at the moment, we though we’d take a look again at the day on which The Globe Theatre burnt down.
The theatre was only about 14-years-old when on 29th June, 1613 – the 400th anniversary of which passed last year – a “special effects” cannon was fired during a performance of King Henry VIII (also known as All is True) – specifically as the king made his entrance on the stage. While cannons had apparently been used for years with no ill effect – that was not to be the case this time.
It is said sparks from the cannon landed on either directly on the theatre’s thatched roofing or a roof beam near the thatch and caught fire – there are also suggestions the fire was in fact caused when one of the stoppers used to block up the cannon came into contact with the thatch.
Theatre patrons apparently initially thought the smoke was simply from the cannon blast but can’t have been confused for long – the fire was said to have moved very quickly; in fact one contemporary letter writer – author, diplomat and politician Sir Henry Wotton – says the entire theatre was burnt to the ground in less than an hour.
The audience – the theatre is thought to have housed some 1,000 people seated and a further 2,000 standing – is thought to have escaped unharmed. There are no reports, at least, of any deaths as a result of the fire.
The theatre was quickly rebuilt – apparently more opulently – and reopened the following year. Traces of the burnt theatre was found during an excavation of the Globe site in 1989.
For more on The Globe, see our earlier post here.
PICTURE: Ashley Nummerdor/www.freeimages.com
We take a break from our regular series this week to bring you some images from the second half of the Olympic Torch Relay as it made it’s way around London toward tonight’s Opening Ceremony…
Day 67 (24th July): Tennis player Oliver Golding holds the Olympic Flame in between the Olympic Rings at Kew Gardens, London.
London Underground employee John Light carries the Olympic Flame onto an underground train at Wimbledon Station.
Day 68 (25th July): Former World Cup winning footballer Gordon Banks carries the Olympic Flame down Wembley Way, at Wembley Stadium.
Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, pose with young entrepreneur Jay Kamiraz and Paralympian Scott Moorhouse as they kiss together Olympic torches in Tottenham.
Day 69 (26th July): Disaster mapping charity volunteer Wai-Ming Lee passes the Olympic Flame to mountain rescue team leader John Hulse in front of Buckingham Palace in the presence of Prince William, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
Wheelchair basketballer Ade Adepitan carries the Olympic Flame on Millennium Bridge.
Student Ifeyinwa Egesi holds the Olympic Flame inside the Globe Theatre.
For more on the Torch Relay, see www.london2012.com/torch-relay/
ALL PICTURES: LOCOG.